I’m a long time user of Thunderbird. Netscape Mail (or whatever it was called) was my first email client. Way back at version 4.x or earlier… I moved away to GMail for a while, but when I started running my own email server, Thunderbird was the client I picked. So I really really want to see Thunderbird gain a LOT of momentum.
Before I jump into my ideas, I want to acknowledge that I am suggesting some very, very big changes. I expect there would be a very large cost to implement them, and I expect a lot of current developers would not like the changes at all. I’m also just a user, I haven’t contributed any real time to the project, so I’m missing a LOT of the picture.
That said, please try to look at my ideas objectively. Maybe they’re exactly what this project needs. Or maybe my ideas are terrible. As long as you take a few minutes to think them through, I’ll be happy.
If any of this has been discussed before, could you link us to an archive of the discussion?
Mozilla or not?
Please clarify Thunderbird and Mozilla’s relationship. Thunderbird users all heard loud and clear that it was being cut off from Mozilla. Then, when you revived it, suddenly it isn’t being cut off, or it’s sorta being cut off? What the heck???
For example, this Discourse forum. Why is it on discourse.mozilla.org? Why not discourse.?
Where is Thunderbird’s new site, again? I tried Googling. I found the mozilla.org site, a real estate company, and a school.
It’s really confusing. And that doesn’t help encourage new users or new developers. Something linked to on the front page of the site that explains things would be helpful.
Even more helpful would be to move the site, code, bugs, blogs, forums, and everything else off of any mozilla.org domain.
Where’s the code?
I asked this on the “What Thunderbird Learned at FOSDEM” blog post. (Why is that still hosted by Mozilla again??? ) Ryan pointed me to https://hg.mozilla.org/comm-central/ When I load that page, I’m left scratching my head wondering how I’m supposed to get the code and do any development.
For a first step, I’d really really like to see a link to Thunderbird’s code directly on the front page of Thunderbird’s site. Or at least a “Developers” page. Something like on libreoffice.org. You use the “Get Involved” menu, click “Developers”, and that page has a nice large “Get the Code” link. That page tells you where the code lives, how to get it, and links to documentation on building and getting started.
Next, I’d love to see a GitHub like solution for both code and issues. I have no idea if something like that exists for Mercurial, so I’m going be crazy and suggest switching to git. Yes, I went there.
Specifically, I suggest GitLab. You could host for free on GitLab.com, or you could build your own instance.
I run an internal GitLab server at work. We don’t have any big projects, but I can see that GitLab has built a very useful system. Lately I’ve been learning how their CI/CD system works. It’s pretty straight forward.
Overall, considering how git seems to be the biggest VCS out there, a lot more developers would be able to jump on board if you used it. And while it’s not perfect, GitLab’s UI is far easier to figure out than whatever hg.mozilla.org is on, or Bugzilla.
So, how to communicate bugs, or ask for support, or just post ideas, is not an easy thing to figure out for Thunderbird. That’s a bit ironic considering it’s a communication tool… Thunderbird isn’t alone, I’ve noticed a LOT of projects are terrible at showing new users where to go for what kind of communication.
Here’s my suggestion:
Create a top level “Communication/Support” page on the website. It would contain links to the various communication channels, as well as simple explanations of what each channel is for.
- GitLab issue queue for bugs and development communication.
- A Discourse forum for support and other ideas.
- A security announcements mailing list or subforum.
- A list of mailing lists, if you still need them. I’d hope most could move to Discourse.
- A list of chat channels. IRC, Slack, Discord, etc.
For bonus points, some kind of wizard that asks a few questions and tells users where to go.
(In my dream world, everything would be able to move between systems. A user starts a chat, but has to leave, so it gets converted to a forum topic. They get back, and start a chat again. Or a developer looks at it, and sees it is a bug, so they convert it to a ticket on the issue tracker. And so on.)
This seems to be in progress right now. But I wanted to mention it anyway. Users and developers all want to know what the plan is for the future of Thunderbird. Will it remain useful and not succumb to bloat? Will it gain a bunch of awesome new features? Where is it going?
Another thing I’d like to see on the front page of the site is a way to donate to Thunderbird directly. Not through Mozilla. Even better would be ways to put money towards specific issues or features.
Anyway, those are the thoughts I’ve had. Hopefully they inspire some useful discussion. And, maybe, someday I’ll figure out the current development infrastructure, and be able to contribute code instead of words.